Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Birds! Birds! Birds!

The Menagerie by Melchior de Hondecoeter (ca. 1690).

Today I’m focusing my attention on birds of mythology, in part because I was inspired by this awesome livejournal post (http://0rchid-thief.livejournal.com/668323.html?thread=3282595) and in part because yesterday a butcher bird flew into our house after my wonderful dog very unwonderfully brought his bone inside tsk tsk. Don’t worry though, after much manoeuvring my mother got it out (If I’m completely honest I was asleep through the whole thing).

And here be the birds!

A Falcon by Archibald Thorburn.
The Falcon is a solar creature. In Egyptian mythology it is representative of the god Horus who sometimes has a Falcon head. In Norse mythology it is connected to the leader of the gods, Odin. The Falcon also plays a part in Chinese, Japanese and Native American mythology.

Owls by Gustave Doré.                        An Owl by Bec Kilpatrick
Perhaps one of the most mystical and magical birds that exist in our world. They were associated with the Greek/Roman Goddesses Athena/Minerva and Artemis/Diana as well as the Welsh Goddess Blodeuwedd. It has a mysterious duality to it as a creature of wisdom as well as death and misfortune. It has its place in Chinese, Japanese, Cree, African, Gaelic, and Scottish tradition. They were/are also associated with witches. They sure do get around.
I’ve got to say finding good pictures of owls is sooo easy, picking just two not so much. Everyone does owls, and I don’t blame them, they’re awesome. I particularly like the Doré picture because of the owls expressions, and I particularly Kilpatrick’s because of the flower motif which, to me, harks back to the Blodeuwedd myth in which Blodeuwedd the goddess of spring and flowers is turned into an owl, I don’t know if this was the artists intention but it’s awesome either way.

Pelecanus Erythorhynchos by John James Audubon.
The Pelican at one time or other has been a part of the symbology of Christianity, Alchemy and Masonry.

A Wagtail by Oshara Koson.
In the myths of the Abron people the Wagtail is known as Nconzo Nkila.

A Fairy Wren by Neville Henry Cayley.    Nested Fairy Wren by Renee Treml
The Wren is the central player in a European folklore tale that possibly dates back to ancient Sumer, in which the Wren, through cunning, is named King of the birds.
Renee Treml’s Etsy store can be found here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ReneeTreml?ref=pr_shop_more

Leda and the Swan by Cesare de Sesto based on a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1515).
This particular painting depicts the Greek myth in which Zeus seduces Leda in the form of a swan (it’s better than a shower of gold I suppose). The swan is important to a number of myths and stories in a number of cultures including Irish and Hindu. The notion of the swan singing sweetly as it dies is central to its symbolism in many of its stories (anyone who hasn’t seen Black Swan go, go now). And don’t forget the story of the ugly duckling.

The Peacock by Patricia Ariel (http://mesmerizedbythesirens.blogspot.com/  )
The Peacock is central to Asian folklore. It is associated with paradise and in the epic poem Conference of the Birds by Attar, is exiled with Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for siding with the serpent.


A Murder of 13 by Christina Empedocles (2010).
The Crow is multifaceted, it is an omen of both the bring of death and the cleansing of it. It is cunning and has the gift of foresight. It is present in North American, Australian, Celtic, Irish, Scottish, Greek and Christian lore.  
Christina Empedocles's website is http://www.christinaempedocles.com/index.html.


One evil looking Magpie by Ego Guiotto.
In the East the Magpie is a bringer of joy and good fortune, in the West not so much. In the West, if you see one you’re pretty much screwed. Now I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of the Western world (or Eastern world for that matter) but in Australia, let’s just say I’m surprised I’m not dead yet. In Christianity they’re a symbol of the Devil and in Norse mythology they’re connected to witches (what bird isn’t).

For some amazing photography of birds visit Kim Steininger’s site, www.birdsbykim.com.
And Beth Emily does some beautiful watercolour and pencil ornithological illustrations which you can look at here; http://www.beth-emily.com/.

For more information on birds in mythology and other magical creatures, and the source of some of my information turn to The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews, it's full of interesting information.

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